Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 11:14 GMT


Lifestyle survey: The health essentials

Fruit and vegetables were more popular, but meat is in decline

The key health points in the British Lifestyles 1999 survey

Britain is more interested in fitness and believes in a healthy diet, but sales of convenience foods are rising and the television still dominates British living.


Overall health and fitness "stands out as the activity of the moment". It indicates a national "obsession with health".

  • The health and fitness industry is worth £931m;
  • It has shown growth of 40% over the past five years;
  • "Fitness and running" are the UK's favourite exercise pastimes;
  • 21% of the population has taken up a new sport in the last 12 months;
  • The fastest growing leisure sector has been sports goods and toys. It is now worth £6.25bn;
  • Inactivity is still popular, however. Watching television is cited as the most popular leisure activity.


Traditional home-cooked fare is decreasing in popularity, while convenience food is on the rise. However, most people believe they have a more healthy diet than they used to.

  • 29% of the population do not care what they eat as long as it tastes good;
  • 14% are often on a diet of some description;
  • The number of people who feel their diet is "traditional" has risen from 32% to 38% since 1994;
  • Spending on meat has decreased by 13% over 10 years;
  • The market for milk cheese and eggs has decreased by 10% over the same period;
  • In that time, the fruit and vegetable sector has grown by 4%;
  • Awareness of health issues surrounding food is high - concern about pesticide use is top of the list of concerns;
  • "Ethnic food", including pizzas, pasta and rice, have shown the greatest growth. It grew by 46% from 1993 to 1998 and is now worth £2.32bn;
  • Pizza's popularity has soared, with the market growing by 74% in the same period. Briton's spend £600m per year on pizzas from supermarkets;
  • Cakes and biscuits are less popular, crisps and nuts more so;
  • 25% of the population describe their cooking as "adventurous";
  • Television enforces its supremacy in UK lifestyles again - snacking and eating in front of it continues to rise.

Further health issues

More people are smoking less and pharmacy counters benefit as spending on dietary supplements rises.

  • Tobacco's market value has decreased by 20% over 10 years;
  • There has been a steady, long-term drop in the number of "heavy smokers";
  • There has been a short-term rise in the number of "medium and light" smokers (from 1996 to 1998);
  • Spending on vitamins and dietary supplements has risen by 52% over the last 10 years;
  • This rise has been reflected, although not to the same extent, in sales of medication.

Source: Mintel

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

20 Jan 99 | British lifestyles
Fitness fanatics and couch potatoes

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99